To put my current cruisings into context and perspective – maps! #narrowboat #England

For the short version of where the Cardinal and I have been and where we are headed, ignore the text and look at the maps.

For the long version, the more accurate version, read the text. 🙂

There is a ball of mud, rock and iron whirling in space, turning about a lopsided axis at something approaching 1,000 mph, at the equator. As this ball spins it is circling around a yellow star, a ball of nuclear fusion, and it is circling at a speed of some 67,000 mph. This yellow star, with the planet Earth circling it, is rotating within something we call the “Milky Way” (bloody stupid, juvenile name!) and is circling relative to that at 448,000mph. The Milky Way is also moving, relative to the “big bang” and relative to its neighbours. In fact, mildly interestingly, the Milky Way is on a collision course with its nearest neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, and the two are closing on each other at roughly 252,000mph. Beyond that, space and time themselves are, we are led to believe, expanding wildly towards some sort of heat-entropy death, and then a possible collapse that may or may not shove us all through like some Universal hernia into another dimension where the same physics and spatial restrictions may or may not apply.

Ba-doinggg pop.

In the middle of all of this you and I cling to the surface of our planet, pour cups of coffee and panic when we can’t remember song lyrics from the nineteen-sixties or where we’ve left our spectacles. Occasionally we resort to an Aspirin.

Recently I have spotted a comment or two from folk wondering about the route that the Cardinal and I are following, where we’ve been, where we might be going to. So, I thought that I would try to explain. Most of our journey is on a spinning planet, circling a sun, rotating around a galaxy and rushing away from a Core Explosion all while accidentally being on a collision course with another galaxy at a quarter of a million miles an hour.

Nuff said.

Well, almost.

The Cardinal and I add to this spinning, swirling, headlong rushing a movement along England’s canals, at something on the order of 2.5mph, more or less, quite often less. Sometimes we also bob up and down a bit, depending on the whims of the wind and the occasional small wave.

My planned route is limited to a small patch of a tiny island in the North Atlantic ocean. Technically, this is called ‘Great Britain’. Great Britain is not a country, it is a collection of three countries, one called Wales, one called Scotland and the best one of all, called England. Sometimes people call Great Britain (and sometimes they even call England) the ‘United Kingdom’ or – which is ugh – the ‘U.K.’. The United Kingdom isn’t a country either, and it’s actually The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it’s ruled by a Queen, not a King. Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland hate England, and in tit-for-tat return we in England generate far and away the most income tax revenue, give them things like free medical prescriptions (while charging our own population for medical drugs), and we let them have parliaments of their own and have seats in the English parliament, although we’re not allowed into theirs. We are indeed, thus, quite horrid.

But I digress. A small island in the North Atlantic ocean. I have bunged a dirty-great red arrow pointing to it in the featured image above. The following two images sort of “zoom” in a bit to show you in more detail. All of my 2.5mph canal travels (but not the planetary, solar or galactic travels) take place at the moment within the red circle.

The mainland, with England front and centre, Wales poking out to the left, Northern Ireland atop Eire (incorrectly labelled here as “Ireland”) and Scotland bunged on top and mostly off-image. That’s a spot of The Europe to the right.


The Cardinal’s (incidental) “hunting grounds” are on the border betwixt England and Wales, in Cheshire and Shropshire and sundry other counties.

The blue and yellow and purple markings are the “Winter Stoppages” that I am moving to try to avoid. The blue lines are the canals and rivers. There are some 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers in Ingerlund at the moment, although that all hangs by the usual “austerity” thread.


Here be dragons.

I sort of notionally “began” at the top of that trapezoidal shape within the red arrows, and I am cruising anti-clockwise (this helps with the sea-sickness caused by the galactic motion). The route is something like 110 miles and ninety-six locks, and I am about a third of the way around so far.

I am hoping to cruise back to my (notional) start point before the end of the year, but if I get “stuck” by stoppages then I’ll just have to pick and choose and bob around between wherever, until everything re-opens. However the planet, solar system and galaxy move, I must try to ensure that I am, at all times, within reach of water/rubbish/gazunder services and shops.

Given these insane velocities and all of this whirling and swirling about, how, I hear you cry, do you slow a narrowboat down to a (relative) “stop” from 2.5mph? Well, I ease off the throttle as far ahead as can be, I give two or three blips of reverse thrust as I approach my target and, if I’ve done that correctly, I sort of drift up to the towpath…

Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I make a right, royal mess of it.

Once stopped, how do I make sure that everything – planet, sun, galaxy &etc – don’t just lose interest and drift apart? Well…

Planet Earth only “weighs” about 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, and when I want to take a shower or go to sleep I hang the planet on two ropes, one fore, one aft, and that usually keeps it in place, relative to my boat.

I have no idea what arrangements the planet has made with the sun to remain in place, nor the sun and solar system with the galaxy. Some sort of damnable “the physics” prevails, I think. The gravity of the matter escapes me.

It’s all very complicated, and this is why, at the end of a day doing locks or tunnels or even just cruising a few miles, I am – to put it mildly – often “cream crackered”. There’s a lot to think about.

It is also why, when you spot simplistic signs such as this one at the side of the canal, one ought really to laugh slightly hysterically, develop a twitch in one eye and grip the acceleratrix and steering-stick just that little bit tighter. Nowhere on the canals actually lies in a straight line direction.

These distances take no account of the expansion of space-time, and make no mention of the extra distance involved due to planetary spin, solar orbits and galactic twirling.

Hopefully that’s cleared up where I’ve been, where I am cruising to and why. I am heading south on the Shropshire Union, intend to swerve to my left, your right, onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and then scoot, if scoot I may, up the Trent and Mersey canal back to where I began, by which time I hope they’ll have fixed the Middlewich breach and I can complete the loop.

The red circle area lies vaguely between Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham – none of which I intend to actually touch in this cruise!


Chin-chin. Ian H.


  1. Ah, maps! I recently bought one of those talking thingies to get me from here all the way to Welsh Wales having printed off my journey from Maps and a router to feel safe! Mr Satnav (that was his name) didn’t start talking to me until I took my first break and I dropped him in the car footwell after which he directed me out of the car park at the services! I knew which junction I needed to take having the maps and the router beside me in the car – just as well really as he tried to get me to leave before the turn and take me off into some unknown territory. I think Mr Satnav was attempting to take me hostage and sell me on…..! Thank goodness for maps and road signs eh? Or in your case canal signs!

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    1. I’ve never really trusted satellite navigation thingies, my first one was, not to put too fine an ecclesiastical word upon it, evil. He would direct me to the outskirts of towns and cities and then abandon me, only becoming useful and talkative again once I’d found my own way through. His favourite request was for u-turns on motorways… During long night drives he’d stay silent until I’d forgotten about him and then would suddenly scream at me about forks in the road, or non-existent speed cameras. In general I navgiated the old-fashioned way, with the map in my head and by memorising a list of town to aim through, and only kept him on because I was too scared to try to switch him off…


        1. I once thought that I might be an ape, but after an investigation it turned out that I’d just got drunk and climbed into Chester Zoo. Best two months of my life though.

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  2. Arrgh, my head hurts now – maps equate to mathematics in my brain so none of this post makes any sense at all!

    Happy wanderings, anyway…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If it helps, just imagine that I am slowly, glacially slowly, cruising around a big circle that has squared-off edges and no straight (or curved) sides… 🙂


      1. But – that is straying into geometry isn’t it? More brain hurt now…


  3. I don’t see how you can possibly avoid all those stoppages. You will be TRAPPED! Caged in by the damn constructive destruction! Have you consulted any of the local wizards? It feels like you might need to take to aerial narrowboating.

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    1. The “powers that be” complicate matters by performing the repairs at different times and the repairs all have different expected durations. Working my way through them is like working through some sort of puzzle. The earliest expected closures are all “behind” me now, and I have some weeks to go before the one “ahead” begin. If I pace this just right… well, fingers crossed! 🙂

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  4. Very interesting. After you end up where you started do you entend t branch out to other canals? It looks from the map like you can cover quite a bit of the entire country. Hugs

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    1. How do, sir! Yep, there’s roughly two thousand miles of canals and navigable rivers to choose from, and I am slowly, slowly, slowly working my way around a few of them, building up my experience… I travel more slowly than do holidaymakers – for them the whole purpose is to cruise, for me, I am home and my home just happens to be afloat and able to be moved… Tis all very strange indeed. 🙂


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